I have been looking forward this Kitchen Reader book for many months. I first heard about An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler when it was recommended by Micahel Ruhlman. (Ruhlman is a thoughtful food author who has also featured on the Kitchen Reader booklist.) Then I heard many others praising An Everlasting Meal, saying it was akin to MKF Fisher's simple yet sublime writing. And it is clear from reading that Adler has indeed been very inspired by Fisher. In fact, the recent launch of this book included a Fisher-themed meal, which Adler organised and wrote about on her blog in a post called "Becoming".
The book is full of wonderful writing, as predicted. And is also practical and will make you a better cook. For example, early on in the book, Adler recommends buying a big haul of vegetables each weekend and roasting almost all of them at once to use in meals later in the week. Roasted vegetables make brilliant cold salads if you toss them with a few raisins plumped up in warm vinegar, as she describes. They can be warmed by mixing them into all kinds of main dishes. Or they should be included in a frittata or a soup. Don't throw the cores, stems, and leaves, she urges, but blitz them into pesto to use on cheesy toast or pasta, or use to top fish or meat. Following this piece of advice on weekends would surely make you better organised for the week's meals and would give mental space to be creative.
I very much appreciate that Adler advocates tasty but simple cooking. Non-fussy food is my favourite. (Sharing beautiful but easy ideas is the main purpose of this blog, after all.) And Adler celebrates simple good-quality foods. For example, she talks at length about boiling as a cooking method. She realises that many people shy away from simple boiled meat or vegetables as a meal. Or they dismiss a boiled egg as too mundane. "I don't know why we make it so difficult," she opines. "Perhaps we can't bear the simplicity of it."
Simplicity is a theme that runs though the whole of this book. (The subtitle is Cooking with Economy and Grace.) Later, in a chapter called "How to Live Well", Adler sums up her thesis by saying, "We do know ... that some of our best eating hasn't been our most foreign or expensive or elaborate, but quite plain and quite familiar. And knowing that is probably the best way to cook, and certainly the best way to live." Adler has succeeded in this book in providing practical and often ingenious ideas for food. I hope roast up a big batch of vegetables on a weekend soon. And also to try her celery cooked with lemon, a new-to-me pairing I think will prove to be very pleasing. I know Adler and Fisher would both enjoy it with me.
Do you think your best eating has been expensive and exotic food? Or plain and familiar?
A review of The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher
A review of The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
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